Sunday, January 8, 2012

Yvonne's English Sherry Trifle

It is with great pleasure that I'm sharing my mother's recipe for English Sherry Trifle.  This is one of my favorite desserts and is relatively simple to make.  It is an authentic English recipe that she learned from her mother growing up in England (and in all likelihood came into the family from their family cook, as my grandmother lived in a household that employed a cook).

I think of sherry trifle as a traditional Christmas dessert as my mother always makes one for afternoon tea on Christmas day.  But the English love a festive party and nothing adds to the festivities like an English Sherry Trifle, and it is a dessert that is served year round at parties.

You wouldn't truly be making an "English" sherry trifle unless while preparing it you didn't wink and say "it's only a trifle said the monkey wee weeing on the sponge cake."

Don't ask me what this means, one can only guess.  Keep in mind that it's just part of the experience of making the trifle and something my mother always says, so go with it.  If it helps (and in case you didn't know) the English are known for having a lavatorial (bathroom) sense of humor.  Having been born and raised in Southern California I can honestly say I don't think I have an English sense of humor, but for some reason I never laugh as much around anyone as I do when I'm around my Mom.   

Without further ado, here is Yvonne's English Sherry Trifle Recipe


1.  Sponge Cake (you can use a jelly roll or even an angle food cake but whatever you use it must absorb liquid well without disintegrating).  My mother buys a sponge cake but I bake a Sponge Cake using this recipe by King Arthur Flour.

2.  Sherry.  Use a nice sherry (not a cooking sherry).  The amount is a matter of taste but I think at a minimum you should plan on using 1/2 cup).

3.  Raspberries.  Using frozen raspberries is perfectly fine.  Approximately 2-3 cups.

4.  Raspberry Jello - yield 4 cups.  This is a unique aspect of my mother's recipe and gives her trifle a beautiful rich red color.  It's best to use a  large box of Jello brand, if available.

5.  Custard - yield 4 cups.  My mother uses Bird's Custard mix (if you use the mix make sure you use the mix that calls for adding milk not water) but I make a custard from scratch - see recipe below.

6.  Heavy Whipping Cream.  1-2 cups

7.   Decorations:  candied cherries cut into half and candied angelica cut into tiny strips (candied angelica is a green cake decorating item that can be cut into tiny strips and placed around the cherries to look like grass).


Find a large bowl.  It looks best in cut glass but I use a heavy glass salad bowl.  Whatever you use it must be thick enough to withstand boiling temperatures.

1.  Line your bowl with sponge cake torn into pieces.  Sprinkle with sherry (it should be damp but not soaked through).  Cover with a layer of raspberries.

2.   Prepare raspberry jello according to package directions.  Pour hot liquid directly over raspberries and cake.  You want the liquid to absorb and cover all of the cake and just cover the raspberries.

3.  Refrigerate until the jello sets.  This takes at least a few hours and it can sit overnight.

4.  Make a custard and while it is still hot (directly from the stove top) pour custard over the jello.  The custard will settle into the jello mixture and form a layer on top.  Allow to cool and "set up" in the refrigerator at least an hour or two before adding the whipped cream.

5.  Whip the cream with a small amount of sugar (1 or 2 tablespoons).  Carefully spoon the whipped cream over the top and decorate with the candied cherries and candied angelica. 

Custard Recipe - 4 cups (2 pints) .  The original recipe for proper custard is found here on BBC Food (which I converted to US measurements/ingredients).


4 cups whole milk
4 fluid oz heavy whipping cream
8 eggs (yolk only)
2 oz super fine baking sugar (white granular sugar)
4 level teaspoons cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract


1.  Use a heavy weight sauce pan.  Slowly bring the milk and cream to simmering point over a low heat.  This is the longest part of the recipe and it is important not to rush this stage otherwise your custard will not "set up" properly.  To ease the boredom I stand over the stove reading a book whilst stirring mixture with a wooden spoon.

2.  Whisk yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together in a large bowl until well blended.  Pour the hot milk and cream mixture into the bowl with the eggs whisking mixture well.

3.  Return mixture to the sauce pan and add vanilla extract.  Stir over a low heat with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens.

4.   Pour directly over trifle while hot.  You can also serve this custard with an English Pudding.

And here is a picture of my Mom with her trifle.  Nothing makes her happier than having her family around her at Christmas and making it the nicest experience possible.  Many of our family Christmas traditions come from her childhood when her mother went to great lengths to make it a a very special occasion, and she has done the same for us.

Now I don't want to hear any whimperings about calories or red food color dye.  This is a once a year treat and best to do it right and enjoy it.

Lastly, I can't resist sharing this picture of my Dad taken this past Christmas.  He has nothing whatsoever to do with making the trifle (except eating it) but as you can see he looks happy at the prospect of doing so.

Until next time be well and love well and may 2012 be a jolly and festive year for you ~
Soon I shall be back with some knitting as I have been busy busy busy knitting away.


Renee said...

Oh yum! We love trifle! I make a very similar sans the sherry so our kids can dig in heartily too.

Beautiful pictures of your parents, so enjoyed reading that you laugh much around your mom.

missyinedmonds said...

What a treat to get to read about your mom's English Trifle and your holiday traditions. Your mom and dad are so cute.

Allie said...

That looks so yummy! And your parents are adorable. Mums do keep us laughing, don't they?

Denise said...

Happy new year, that trifle looks delicious:-) I didn't make my Christmas cake this year, was too afraid I'd eat it all!!

Anonymous said...

Christmas Trifle is my husband's (and son's) much so that it's also Birthday Trifle for them. Thank you for sharing your mom's recipe...I've never seen one with jello, but I think it sounds really yummy, so I'll give it a try. And can't wait to see all your knitting!

SissySees said...

What jolly folks you have! That photo of your dad reminds me of one of my favorites of my father, in a similar hat, working in the yard and smiling...

Happy '12!!

Tracy said...

Oh, that trifle looks so good! So glad you shared the recipe, Claudia...thank you! I made a mini trifle once for our anniversary treat. Maybe time to make another. ;o) Wonderful to see photos of your family. Christmas seems awhile ago now, doesn't it? Wishing you all the best of love, peace & joy in 2012, my friend ((HUGS))

Monika said...

That sound so nice, and the trifle looks delicious. I have to remember to give it a try. I have done a Raspberries Trifle a few years at Christmas, but forgot about it the last two years. Lovely photos of your parents.

Willow said...

Sweet photos of your parents (and the trifle). Question: what tea?

Rachel said...

Whenever I hear English Trifle, the episode of Friends comes to mind...where Rachel makes one but messes up the recipe by adding in Shepherd's Pie ingredients. This one...looks far tastier! ;)

Hilary said...

Ok, so I am a MONTH behind on my blog-commenting, but I wanted to wish you a belated Happy New Year and say thanks for sharing the trifle recipe! It sounds so yummy...custard and jello and cake, mmmm...

(I'm also obsessed with Downton Abbey these days, so think that something THIS English - and coming from an English household cook - is just the coolest thing ever.)

Oh, and I love your handspun scarf! And the story of how you found that ruin! Very cool -- and I'm glad you make it up there ok! :)

raining sheep said...

I love a good trifle. Yours looks so yummy. I have never actually made a trifle but one of my girlfriends is British and she makes absolutely the best one's - of course, any dessert tastes wonderful when someone else makes it for you.

gMarie said...

That looks lovely - and you don't know bathroom humor until you've have 4 middle school kids sitting around your dinner table at the same time! I, however, will not be making it - we've talked about my cooking skills.

Your parents are lovely! g

t does wool said... have me drooling...thank you for always sharing your tastes ;)

Robin said...

I do love a good trifle and yours looks delicious!

Kristen Rettig said...

What a wonderful and yummy tradition!

knittingdragonflies said...

Oh *moan* this looks soooo good! Yummy! Great photos of your family!